Glass manufactures consumed more than half of all the soda ash produced in the past year.

The glassmaking industry used 53% of the 60 million tonnes of soda ash produced in the last year. The flat glass sector consumed 29%, the container industry 19% and other glass segments 5%.

Delegates at the IHS World Soda Ash Conference in Cannes this week were told the flat glass sector is single largest end user for soda ash.

Construction is the largest driver for flat glass demand so any investment growth in construction has an impact on flat glass. In 2019 this has positively impacted on China but was slower elsewhere.

In a 30-minute opening presentation Marguerite Morrin (pictured), Executive Director, Chemicals at IHS Markit, gave a global overview of the soda ash industry.

She told the 325 delegates that the soda ash industry is currently a mixture of conflicting dynamics in each region.

“In the USA we see low levels of recycling and see container glass production in decline year on year despite the Arglass site coming on stream next year. Mexico is enjoying fast growth in container glass production and demand.”

Construction growth in the US has declined by 7.5% decline this year due to a combination of factors. Between 2007 and 2014 there were 11 float plant closures in the USA.

But there are signs of positive growth - NSG’s Pilkington brand plans to open a new float plant in Ohio in 2020, while a new float plant is planned in Mexico in 2021.

“So long term there is some positive growth for construction in in the region,” she said.

Soda ash is a key raw material and is used as an additive in the glassmaking process. It is used in the glass industry for the production of flat, container, fibre, and other speciality glass.

There have been a number of soda ash production site expansions in recent months, with two announced the same week as the IHS Markit conference.

Solvay said it would add 600,000 tonnes of production capacity at its Green River, Wyoming, USA facility to meet long- term global demand growth from sectors such as glass. Genesis Alkali also announced a 750,000 short tonnes expansion at its Granger bed, also in Green River.

The two-day conference included 16 papers from a variety of soda ash manufacturers, such as Turkey's Eti Soda and various analysts. It also included a paper from Jim Nordmeyer, Vice President of Global Sustainability at O-I with a paper titled Container Glass: A View Outside In.

A longer review of the event will appear in the October issue of Glass International.